Cut Unemployment Benefits? A Bonehead Idea

By Heidi Shierholtz
New data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 13.9 percent of the workforce was unemployed at some point in 2012, much higher than the official 2012 unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. How can this be? Each month, the official unemployment rate provides the share of the labor force unemployed in that month. But this understates the number of people who are unemployed at some point over a longer period, since someone who is employed in one month may become unemployed the next, and vice versa. So the official annual unemployment rate—which is actually the average monthly unemployment rate for the year—is much lower than the share of the workforce that experienced unemployment at some point during the year.
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